Engage APAC Speaker Spotlight: Digitizing Vocational Training for Audi

At Engage APAC, Graham O'Connell, of GMWEB and Justin Barrie, of Design Managers Australia (DMA), will be sharing how they worked with Audi Australia.


In the lead up to Acquia Engage Asia Pacific (Acquia Engage APAC), we’ll be taking time out with some of our conference speakers to discover what they’ll be discussing at the event, why it’s important and what attendees will take away from their sessions.

At Acquia Engage APAC, Graham O'Connell, lead developer at GMWEB and Justin Barrie, principal, Design Managers Australia (DMA), will be sharing how they worked with Audi Australia to create an entirely new, purpose-built apprenticeship management platform. This week, we sat down with Graham and Justin to hear about the amazing impact the new platform has had on the business so far.

Thanks for joining us, both! You’ll be discussing your work in greater detail at the conference, but please could you briefly describe the platform you built for Audi Australia?

Graham: We designed a fully customized apprenticeship management system – this is a system Audi Australia uses to track and manage the training of its apprentices who work in dealerships around the country, with a focus on helping them to qualify and begin their careers with Audi while meeting government compliance requirements. A few years ago, Audi decided to become a registered training organization itself; when it couldn’t find a student-management system that met its standards, Audi decided to build its own.

Justin: Graham’s team worked on the build and architecture, and our team at DMA worked on the research and front-end design. We embedded ourselves with the people who would be using the system to understand the full capabilities and potential for the platform, and we were able to create something that went far beyond even what the client envisaged.

Can you talk us through what that research phase looked like?

Justin: We did research with the team at Audi HQ, but also with all the potential users at a dealership level, which is why the customized system Graham has built has been such a success. We were able to map that the users would include HQ (the team running the system), the apprentices themselves, mentors, dealers and the Aftersales service managers. We then observed the workshops — looking at how apprentices interact with their mentors – the administration of the current system, and how the team at Audi HQ organizes all these apprentices and conducts interviews with the Aftersales managers, who use the system most.

The next phase was prototyping, so we led a series of workshops in which we brought dealers in and laid out full paper prototypes of the potential system, on which they could draw or scribble; so before Graham actually started building anything, he had a strong sense of the key features needed and the structure of the system that would work for the people using it.

What key findings came out of that research?

Justin: We always want to think bigger with the projects we work on and realized that the system could extend much further than just meeting the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) minimum requirements for apprentices to be accredited. Our research highlighted some other challenges Audi were having around apprentice management; for example, there’s a current skills shortage and simply identifying potential apprentices is competitive. We were able to build in what seem like fairly simple things that solve real problems. Previously, in order to register interest in becoming an apprentice, a candidate would need to book a numeracy and literacy assessment and physically go into the dealership to sit it; most candidates are only 16 years old, so they may be too nervous to attend or be reliant on a friend or family member to drive them. Graham designed a test for candidates to sit and submit online; not only does this remove a lot of stress and effort for the candidates, but Audi has an immediate central record of all the candidates who have passed their assessments.

Graham: One of the key benefits of the new system that Audi leadership is very happy about is that it has removed a significant amount of administration that was previously being carried out for apprentices that may not end up entering the program. In the new system, an apprentice doesn’t become visible until they’ve passed their assessment and completed an application online; a workflow is then created so that if the apprentice’s preferred dealership isn’t hiring, they will be referred to another dealership — so it’s helping to solve talent-pool issues as well as to manage apprentices far more efficiently.

Justin: Something that we couldn’t have possibly known about, without spending real face-time with the Aftersales managers, is that there was also an intense personal relationship between the managers and the apprentices. The Aftersales managers on-board these 16-year-olds, at the very start of their careers, and genuinely want them to succeed. They build extraordinary relationships where some will drive well out of their way to collect apprentices to bring them to work. Digitizing the tests and the paperwork takes a lot of pressure off that relationship as the managers no longer need to chase apprentices for paperwork or worry about their progress, as it’s all in the system.

What’s the key message you hope that attendees will take away from your Acquia Engage APAC session?

Graham: We hope that attendees at Engage will take away the importance of doing quality, comprehensive research upfront, before starting a project, and letting that inform and shape the development process.

Justin: Trust between partner and client is paramount. Audi HQ could have just said, “here are our requirements, please build something that meets them”; but if we hadn’t spent time with the Aftersales managers and apprentices themselves to ensure it worked for them, they simply wouldn’t use it. Those people are the lifeblood of the organization. We could have just digitized the existing paper forms; instead, we fundamentally changed the level of service that these Aftersales managers and apprentices were receiving.

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